Watch CBS News

Jayson Tatum Continues His Rise To Superstar Status

By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) -- Heading into the Celtics-76ers playoff series, the consensus was that Boston was the better team but Philadelphia had the best player in the series. People should stop saying that.

Joel Embiid has been great to start games, but Jayson Tatum has been downright dominant throughout. The Celtics forward has found some sort of cheat code in the Orlando bubble, thrusting himself into "superstar" status in the process.

Tatum once again made Philadelphia regret not taking him in the 2017 NBA Draft (you know, after trading with Boston for the first overall pick), torching the 76ers for 33 points in his 31 minutes in Wednesday night's Game 2 victory. Tatum had his usual moves going but he was even more lethal from downtown, draining eight of his 12 triples.

Celtics play-by-play Sean Grande put Tatum's three-point barrage in context:

The fact that one of those threes came from just inside half court as the shot clock buzzed made that 8-for-12 all the more impressive.

Cheat code activated. Unfortunately for Philly, they can't  just hit the reset button on this gaming console and start over.

Tatum looks like he did in February when he earned NBA Player of the Month honors, and perhaps even a little bit better. He's hitting 53.7 percent of his shots over the first two games against Philadelphia, averaging 32.5 points. He has hit 10 of his 17 threes for the series. And his impact isn't just from his ridiculous scoring numbers, as Tatum has played some great defense as well. He's been the complete package this series, and is now rightfully being mentioned in the same breath as the likes of LeBron, Giannis, Kawhi and the other greats of today's game.

After setting a new career high with 32 points in Game 1, Tatum took it up a notch Wednesday. His teammates are no longer in awe of what he can do on the offensive end, they just sort of anticipate more greatness when Tatum touches the ball.

"I think we expect it now for sure," Kemba Walker said of his 22-year-old teammate. "He's a superstar. He's a superstar. He's been showing it night in, night out. He just makes the right reads, man. He's a special talent."

It seems like eons ago that Tatum started bubble action with a 2-for-18 showing against the Bucks. It was a really a 1-for-17 showing, considering he got credit for a ball that Milwaukee put into the Boston hoop. But since that woeful night, Tatum has been lights out, hitting 54 percent of his shots overall (75-for-136) and 52 percent from beyond the arc (32-for-62). Even if you include his bubble debut, Tatum is shooting 49 percent and 48 percent, respectively.

Tatum is absolutely oozing with confidence at the moment, and his calmness on the floor shows it. Asked if he is looking to take over every game when he hits the floor, Tatum gave a very Brady Stevens-like response.

"I mean, I try to go out there and be the best player I can be," he said. "I have the utmost confidence in myself and my teammates and I know it's reciprocated. I just try to figure it out. I try to figure out when I need to be more aggressive, when I need to make the right pass. I think the most important thing is I want to be that guy; I want to be able to make the big plays, whether it's scoring or making the right pass because I'm drawing attention. I think that's the first step, wanting to be that person. It takes a collective effort.

Despite his superstar performance, he was also quick to note that 11 other players contributed to the victory.

"We won this game tonight as a team," he said, "and we'll continue to win as a team."

The Tatum show continues Friday night, as the Celtics look to push Philly to the brink of elimination.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.